While the entire known production universe had its eyes on Las Vegas for NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) conference, I was actually IN production with Exploration Nation in Central America. I got a text from my friend Richard Jackson on the NAB show floor that said, "this place is crawling with drones". He knew I was flying one of the cool new aerial production tools in the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan rain forests.
I also flew the DJI Phantom over water, up a waterfall, under jungle canopy and into a tree filled with oriole nests that hung like 7' long weed teardrops. Pictured above is executive producer, Pete Monfre in the front of the boat with Franklin, our Rio Indio guide. I'm on the right with the remote trying to get the Phantom back into Pete's hands after a successful sortie where we filmed aerials of Rio Indio Lodge.
Since there was no place to take off or land, Pete had to hold it over his head and hope that I could bring it back into his hands for a landing. For the record, it was a flawless flight, just saying... ok, well, to be honest, I did have the help of satellites. The Phantom aligns itself with GPS and so I can't take all the credit for bringing it home safely.
The first thing I noticed about flying the Phantom was that it's not as hard as it looks.The controls make a lot of sense, up, down, go left, go right, go forward or back. And then there's the left to right pans. It easily carries a GoPro camera and that's what makes the flying tricky. Not only was I flying the drone out over the water, I was also trying to aim a camera by using the helicopter's positions as my tripod head, if you will. Filming adds a whole new intensity to the task.
The GoPro shoots a nice wide angle, and so my imprecise aim was somewhat forgiving.
I learned to fly the DJI Phantom in a less than a day. I have decided to write up a series of articles about my experience as a "preditor" filmmaker flying the Phantom I'm also going to continue using this great little tool for upcoming productions. I have a shoot in the Sierras this coming week where I will attempt to fly it to feature hunting equipment manufactured by my new client Kuiu. We will be in high elevation near Donner Pass where the trees become sparse and the air is thin and unpredictable.
Later in May, I will be taking the Phantom to Alaska to film large commercial fishing vessels, once again from the water. Only, it won't be a peaceful river like the Nicaragua scene above, but on the open ocean. Weather and waves are unpredictable of course, I can't guarantee a safe landing.
After flying in the rainforest, I am confident that the DJI Phantom quadcopter with my GoPro2 will be up to the task.
More to come, stay tuned...